At the End of the Day

There are too many shibboleths getting in the way of open-minded science. We should not be afraid to call out these High Priests of false certainty.

As an array of media pundits tell Boris Johnson he is right/wrong/slow/mad/precipitate/clueless on the debate about dumping the 2-metre distancing rule, I am reminded of something dear old Albrecht of the Relativity enigma Einstein once said:

“If you keep on bisecting the distance between the mouse and the hole, the mouse never gets there, so the cat eats the mouse”.

Here in France, we have the same problem with “exiting” (the new post-Covid buzz-verb) on almost every level. Five people per shop at a time has been increased to seven, and there’s talk of being able to drive 200 rather than 100 kilometres on a journey. In the UK, you can have barbecues without wearing masks, but not greet your friends by shaking hands.

This is all referred to as “science-led guidance”, but is of course unadulterated bollocks: a classic case, in fact, of the ignorant blind leading the misinformed blind.

My former sister-in-law once told me she took part in a panel of medically qualified practitioners at her NHS Trust employer on the subject of “safe” levels of alcohol consumption. “It was simply an opinion trade-off deal like you might get at a hung Convention,” she said, “based on a collective compromise. If it was related to any science, I never saw any evidence of that”. But the ruling gained traction, and was eventually accepted by the BMA as “best knowledge practice”.

Three years ago, a retiring senior Whtehall mandarin (who clearly no longer cared, as he was off to tend the roses) was asked by a Parliamentary Committee looking into the HS2 fiasco how his Department had arrived at a cost/benefit analysis of the high-speed London-Manchester rail-link proposal. “We made it up,” he replied. Boris Johnson has, since coming to power, given it the go-ahead on the basis of this back-of-envelope shibboleth.

Shibboleths about Covid19 are multiplying and mutating faster than any Coronavirus has yet managed…..and lasting longer. Shibboleth as a word has long fascinated me, because it always sounds to my ear like a tribe on the fringes of the Old Testament.

There was Goliath of Gath, and the Phillistines, and the Israelites and the Shi’ites and here and there the Issachar…but the Shibboleths were rarely out of the picture.

It was they who decided upon ten commandments (decimally ahead of their time), parting the Red Sea rather than the blue stuff (wacky), and giving Josh a trumpet to smash the walls of Jericho (settled science or wot?). But their comeuppance was the recommendation to put Jesus on a donkey and throw palm-leaves at him. It ended in handwashing by Pilate, and the Mob crucifying the Son of God.

Where did the anti-Covid19 advice to wash your hands a lot come from? Who decided on two metres? Why did we lock down 100% of productive humanity when only 8% were vulnerable….90% of whom are retired? Why have 37 major countries been advised to use 19 different containment strategies? Why are people wearing masks while driving their cars?

It’s all down to the Shibboleths – those masters of Settled Science so beloved of the closed Libleft mind.

Despite the unerring ability of most self-styled experts to be consistently wrong about almost everything, the general public’s unswerving belief in respecting their agenda-ridden, half-baked nonsense remains rock-solid.

I suspect this is at least partly to do with a post-religious age in which the lack of faith certainty leaves most confused people with the desire to seek out scientific certainty.

There is no such thing. While I’m not a fan of religious certainty (although spiritual/metaphysical investigation offers intriguing possibilities) I have come to reject the concept of scientific conclusions tainted variously by funding, bunging, lobbying and jostling.

Soi-disant scientists – in specialisms ranging from climate change, dysfunctional social behaviour, modelling and conservation through to medical chemistry and sub-atomic physics – are prone to obsessive compulsion. That’s to say, a belief that they are so right about something, the odd data trick or slippery “finding” is OK really….for they are priests in the process of disseminating a Higher Truth.

Their motivation is driven by a complex mix of money, Nobel Prize fantasies, the need for peer esteem, and often – more often than most commentators accept – a narrow ideology that will brook no contradiction.

Such drivers lead them to distort reality, while disturbing and even blighting the lives of millions of innocent citizens.

In some cases right now, it is leading them to kill Covid patients in order to confirm their ‘scientific rectitude’ or gain a political Party advantage.

We live in an age where honesty is being traded for money and bigotry.

It’s a disastrous form of barter.